Filmmaker, evangelist and renowned bible prophecy teacher Joel Richardson says it is a time of change for the church, especially when it comes to teachings about the End Times and the rapture. The author of the New York Times bestseller “The Islamic Antichrist” recently appeared with Joe Schimmel on Rick Wiles’s TruNews radio program to discuss the what he believes is the false doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture.
Wiles himself supports the post-tribulation position, stating, “I personally do not believe that by the year 2020, any credible person will be teaching the secret pre-trib rapture doctrine. I think the events that are coming in the next five years will utterly destroy the doctrine.”
The pre-tribulation school of thought has been an important force in American Christianity for decades, with proponents such as Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice. This school holds believers will be raptured before the great tribulation during the End Times, thus avoiding it. In contrast, Richardson believes the rapture will not occur until during the tribulation period. Thus, believing Christians will not be spared the persecution and calamities of the End Times.
Richardson is featured on a DVD exploring the issue entitled “Left Behind or Led Astray?” During the film, Richardson explains what he sees as the crucial importance of the issue.
“It’s one of the premiere pastoral issues of our day. If you’re a pastor that’s not preparing your people to face potentially the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation, in this hour, simply because your denomination teaches it or whatever, personally I think you’re failing in your role as a shepherd and a pastor.”
Richardson believes the bulk of American Christians are moving in his direction.
“There are some powerful winds of change presently sweeping through the church, especially as it relates to the subject of end times theology and the rapture. In fact, although these winds have been quietly bringing change for quite some time, their effects are now beginning to become far more apparent. There are ample signs that there is a mass exodus of believers who are leaving the doctrine of the pre-tribulational rapture behind.
“These teachers, pastors, and students of Scripture are coming to believe that the rapture will take place after the tribulation, but before the wrath of God is poured out. In my own experience, I continually meet new pastors and leaders who have come to reject the doctrine of the ‘pre-trib’ rapture. Many of these are members of denominations that require one to believe in the pre-trib rapture – yet they inform me that many within their denomination have stopped believing in a pre-trib rapture.”
Champions of the two doctrines will meet face to face next month when Dr. Thomas Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center meets Alan Kurschner for a public debate on whether the church will face the Antichrist before the rapture. Richardson sees it as a further sign the public is moving to support his position.
“For the past twenty five years, Dr. Ice has served as the president of the Pre-Tribulational Research Center, and led an annual conference which gathers together a range of leading voices and academics to discuss, strengthen, and defend the case for pre-tribulational dispensationalism.
“Now, because the mass exodus to pre-wrath is being felt by the pre-trib camp, Dr. Ice has agreed to debate Kurschner. This is the first time Ice has ever defended his view against a leading proponent of the pre-wrath perspective.”
Kurschner, author of “Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Return of Christ,” also believes the momentum is on his side.
“I am encouraged to see that in recent years there has been a growing number of believers and pastors who are rethinking their traditional pre-tribulational rapture view. Even some denominations who have traditionally been very staunch on pre-tribulationism are allowing their people to have more freedom to affirm other views, particularly the pre-wrath and pos-tribulational rapture views.”
Regardless of the specific beliefs of Christians, Kurschner argues it is important for believers to discuss and debate their differences and still pursue a spirit of unity. He said: “I do not believe that conformity to a particular view or silence by ignoring the issue fosters genuine unity in the church. That creates disunity. Unity can happen if there is meaningful interaction on this issue. Even if at the end of the day there is still disagreement, there can still be a spirit of unity.”
The debate over the timing of the rapture is not the only controversy Richardson is taking on. He also recently appeared on “Marcus & Joni” on Daystar to tackle “replacement theology.”
Richardson defined replacement theology as the “idea that the church is the new and true Israel.” He characterizes this belief as dangerous because of the rising anti-Semitism and hatred of the state of Israel around the world. Richardson stated, “If we teach that we are the new and true Israel, then by virtue, the old Israel has ceased to be and that’s not just a wrong doctrine, it’s evil.”
More importantly, Richardson contends replacement theology challenges the nature and even the integrity of God.
Richardson explained: “This is an issue concerning the integrity of God. God is a promise keeper. And when we say that God made promises but he didn’t really mean them or that he changed his mind, we are literally challenging the very integrity of God, we are accusing God of being a promise breaker. That’s really what it boils down to. That is a dangerous thing.”
Joel Richardson’s newest book, “When a Jew Rules the World: What the Bible Really Says About Israel in the Plan of God,” is Richardson’s direct attack on replacement theology and serves, as he said on “Marcus & Joni,” as his “Gentile gift back to the Jewish people” as a worshipper of the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Richardson charged: “The church, dominated by Gentiles through history, has blown it in our theology and in the way we have related to the Jewish people. It’s critical to get it right because this is so close to the heart of God.”
Richardson argues all of God’s promises to believers, including the promise of salvation, are ultimately built upon His promises to the Jews as a people.
“Going all the way back, the God of Heaven and Earth made a vow unto death, to Abram, and He said I’m going to give your descendants this land,” said Richardson. “He made a covenant, and all the other covenants are built upon that original covenant. So the new covenant, Jesus dying on the cross for us, this is so that we can receive His spirit and live holy and inherit the promises. So everything is built on the Abrahamic covenant.”
Richardson was recently challenged on his views about replacement theology by “Bible Answer Man” Hendrik “Hank” Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute. Richardson responded with a challenge for a debate. Thus far, there has been no response.